“My country, my game!”: an exploration of recent cases of nationalistic narrative in videogames

Aldo Giuseppe Scarselli (PhD Researcher at the Università degli Studi di Firenze)

16 January 2019, 18:00-19:00, Seminar Room 3, Badia Fiesolana

In recent times, the growing importance of the videoludic medium has moved academia’s attention on how videogames portray reality and which kind of language and tools they use. Giving the growing importance of the genre of the historical themed videogames, in the past 15 years, starting from a revolutionary contribution of William Uricchio, (Uricchio, 2004), a new field of study (Historical Videogame Studies) focuses on them as instruments to narrate the past, and as a way to share different views of history. At the same time, many historians have focused on the modes and different uses of language used in reproducing and re-telling the past through this medium. They tried to understand how videogames respond to certain agencies or how they keep reproducing some views of the past. The debate about historical videogames, and how they could not only be used as an instrument to represent historical event but also as a vehicle of political and cultural views, spread outside academia, amongst journalists, independent scholars and game developers.

Clearly, the use of the past in popular media can lead to misuses and manipulation of the view of history. In the field of nationalism and national identities, videogames nowadays start to play an important role, and Public Historians started to analyse the videogame medium, discussing its many positive effects, but also the risk of misconception that could be done through its misuse.

In this discussion, I am going to show how certain videogames interact with the nationalistic discourse, and I am going to investigate which kind of agencies pushed for the representation of nationalistic views in videogames. To do so I have taken in consideration three games, while other cases are going to be pinpointed, like the extreme right wing milieu linked with game modding.

The first game is Kingdome Come: Deliverance, developed in 2018 by the Czech Warhorse Studios. The game is set in the middle age and portray Bohemia like a country of peace and prosperity, ruined by the foreign with their plots and violence. The representation of a “golden past”, depicted as the “real history” of the country and with the claims of the studio chief director about the racial homogeneity of middle age Europe has started an heated debate between journalist and historians about the distorted nationalistic narrative of the game.

The second game is Heroes of 1971: Retaliation, a videogame developed by Portbliss in Bangladesh with the support of the local government. Set during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, the game introduce the player to fight as freedom fighter against the Pakistani invading soldiers, in an attempt to tell an heroic tale of independence and vengeance against the Pakistani oppressors. The game had an enormous success, especially with the younger generations who had never seen the war.

With the third game, I will take a different approach. In 2017 Firaxis announced that the expansion for their game Civilization VI, called Rise and Fall, would include the Cree nation. This inclusion raised the protest of the political leader of the Cree First Nations, Milton Tootoosis. Tootoosis criticised the inclusion of his people’s past and culture in an imperialistic game without asking their consultation and opinion, as “appropriating their national identity”.

The goal of this exploration is to show how nationalistic narrative can be used in videogames in different ways, depending also on the support and the involved agencies. At the same time, the intention is to call for attention of the historians about this topic, its possible future developments and related risks.

Benoit Vaillot

Doctorant en histoire (EHESS, Paris) / Arche EA 3400 (Université de Strasbourg). PhD Researcher (European University Institute, Florence). Coordinateur du séminaire doctoral « Nationalism Working Group » hébergé à l'Institut Universitaire Européen.

More Posts - Website - Twitter - Facebook


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.